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Launch of UNESCO and Open Society Foundations (OSF) Project to Strengthen Higher Education Policy Reform in Myanmar

On 05 December 2013, UNESCO and Open Society Foundations (OSF), in close partnership with the Ministry of Education (MoE), launched a project to strengthen higher education policy reform in Myanmar by holding the first high-level MoE Higher Education Project Committee meeting at the Department of Higher Education, Lower Myanmar.

The University of Yangon, established in 1878, is the oldest and the best-known university in Myanmar. (©UNESCO)


Dr. Myo Myint, Acting Minister of Education, chaired the meeting which was attended by the 15 member MoE Higher Education Project Committee, which includes the Director-Generals and Deputy Director-Generals of the Departments of Higher Education, Lower and Upper Myanmar, as well as Rectors and Pro-Rectors from nine major universities across Myanmar.

According to Dr. Myo Myint, “We are very grateful for the timely support from UNESCO and OSF as this project will serve as a catalyst to put higher education reform in Myanmar on the fast track.”

The UNESCO and OSF higher education reform project will support Myanmar in preparing legislative and governance frameworks for the higher education sector. It will facilitate, through national and regional level consultations, the formation of a network of rectors, professors, and lecturers from various universities to take forward the vision for higher education reform in Myanmar.

The meeting provided an opportunity to prioritize higher education reform initiatives, which will include analytical reports on policy, legislation and management of the higher education system. These reports will serve as the evidence base for a series of capacity development workshops and a national conference on key higher education policy reform issues. The project will also support customized study tour programmes to Hong Kong University and other universities in the region, providing higher education rectors and administrators the opportunity to learn from the experiences of other countries who have recently undergone reform of their higher education sector.

At the meeting, Mr. Sardar Umar Alam, Head of UNESCO Myanmar Office, presented comparative examples from ASEAN countries of higher education legislative frameworks, quality assurance mechanisms, and policies on decentralization. “The higher education reform process is multi-faceted and complex,” he said. “There is urgent need to develop consensus on an evidence-based, results-oriented way forward for Myanmar’s higher education system. The involvement of university rectors, professors and administrators through local consultations is critically important.”

Mr. Oleksandr Shtokvych, OSF Senior Program Officer, also noted the importance of bringing together a wide range of higher education stakeholders, including civil society and the private sector, to help inform and implement Myanmar’s reform efforts. “We are excited to be a part of a project that focuses on the practical aspects of education reform and that is working to empower local leaders and find sustainable solutions,” he said, “Myanmar’s higher education reforms will be driven by Myanmar’s educators who are working on the ground in universities across the country.”

According to Ms. Jamie Vinson, UNESCO Myanmar, higher education reform project activities will complement and feed into wider, ongoing reform efforts in the country, including the Comprehensive Education Sector Review (CESR) and the work of the Education Implementation Promotion Committee, which UNESCO is supporting through its CapEFA programme. Ms. Robyn Jackson, UNESCO TVET Specialist, stressed the importance of recognizing the nexus of higher education and TVET in policy reform.